clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

49ers offensive review: Brock Purdy punishes Pittsburgh while McCaffrey and Aiyuk star

Colton McKivitz had his struggles, but they weren’t enough to takeaway from stellar games by Christian McCaffrey and Brandon Aiyuk

San Francisco 49ers v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Sunday illustrated how high of a ceiling the 49ers offense has this season. Only four teams had a higher EPA per play in the first half of Week 1. That number is impressive as the team’s success rate was 42 percent, which is about three percent lower than the league average from last year.

For the full game, despite taking their foot off the gas, the 49ers finished 12th in success rate and seventh in EPA. Excessive penalties bogged those numbers down a bit. But you can’t be mad at a team that finished seventh in DVOA against a defense projected to finish inside the top 10.

Effective and efficient

The 49ers went 6-for-13 on third downs, and 2-for-3 in the red zone. A 46 percent conversion rate on third down was good for fifth-best in Week 1.

The Niners failed to convert on 3rd & 14, 7, 15, 6 (T.J. Watt sack), 2, and 8. The double-digit third downs were due to penalties. So, looking at it from a macro point of view, the team put themselves in ideal positions to convert.

The 49ers were second among all teams in yards per play, at 5.9. That’s a sustainable number for this offense. The only team higher, Mike McDaniel’s Miami Dolphins, finished with 8.2 yards per play. That’s something that happens in a video game.

Another way to look at the 49ers efficient outing is them having 66 plays and only getting to third down 13 times. That tells us they were winning enough on early downs.

McCaffrey moves the chains

Christian McCaffrey had 22 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown. Seven of those went for first downs. And, thanks to his spin move on the scoring run, a whopping 129 of those yards came after contact. McCaffrey averaged 5.9 yards after contact, which is an incredible number, with or without context.

The 49ers must be able to run the ball in between the tackles. CMC had five carries inside the tackles and averaged 8.4 yards a pop. Add in three forced missed tackles and you’re looking at a superb outing.

McCaffrey had three receptions on five targets. Only four running backs in Week 1 saw a higher percentage of their teams’ targets. Unlike most running backs, McCaffrey ran real routes and lined up as an actual receiver. It’s evident that he’s going to be a focal point of the 49ers passing game.

Big-time, Brandon

Two receivers had more yards than Brandon Aiyuk in Week 1: Tyreek Hill and Justin Jefferson. Unlike those two, Aiyuk didn’t have a long, 40+ play.

Every one of Aiyuk’s receptions went for a first down. He had a perfect passer rating his way. And put on an absolute clinic as a blocker. Kyle Shanahan was asked what’s different about Aiyuk this year than in year’s past:

“More consistent. I thought he came a long way last year in that, as the year went, I think that’s why he ended up leading our team in receiving, and he’s carried that into the offseason. Didn’t know if he was going to get all those opportunities going to the game. You never know how it’s going to play out, but he got eight opportunities, and he came down with all eight of them.

That doesn’t always mean you get more. Sometimes that means you get more attention, and they take it away, which helps out other people. So, you never know which direction it’s going to go each week. But the coolest thing about B.A. is how ready he came to play regardless. You see him on some of those run plays and stuff and from the beginning to the end.

And usually when he is like that in the run game, it carries over to the pass game. The pass game’s just a little more out of your control, but yesterday it all fell to him, and he was ready for the moment and had a big-time game.”

You better believe opposing defenses will give Aiyuk more attention moving forward. If I’m them, I’m making anybody else beat me. Make Deebo Samuel prove he can consistently get open. It’s easier said than done, but Aiyuk’s route running is on another level.

Purdy punishes Pittsburgh

Here’s a 20-minute video breaking down some of the nuances from Brock Purdy, Aiyuk getting open, and the 49ers offense flourishing against the Steelers:

Purdy was incredible. That may not be reflective in the box score, but some of the plays he made with his legs and escape ability were next level. It was a minor miracle that Purdy was only sacked three times.

Per Sports Info Solutions, 89 percent of Purdy’s throws were catchable. Even better, 74.5 percent of his yards came through the air, which was a league high for Week 1. It’s a limited sample size, but I’m not sure there’s much of anything to complain about from Purdy when you put into context who he went against and what he’s coming off of.